Caroline Spence is enamored with words and songs. Though countless singer-songwriters boast the same simple claim, few have been lifted up by their passion the way Caroline has. Her passion led the Virginia native on a pilgrimage to Nashville, where the 25-year-old honed her writing and her coy, dusky soprano across folk, Americana and alt-country genres. That same passion resonates throughout every track on her first full-length solo debut, the magical and meditative Somehow, set for release on March 3rd 2015.
With songs that wrap the truths of life up into personal vignettes of clever wordplay and catchy hooks, it’s no wonder that in 2013 Caroline won American Songwriter Magazine’s June/July lyric contest as well as the Rocky Mountain Folks Fest songwriter competition later that year. Caroline also had her songs recorded by up-and-coming independent singer songwriters Andrew Combs (“Heavy”) and Annalise Emerick (“A Good One” and “Somewhere In Between”). But when American Songwriter named her the grand prize winner out of all song submissions for all of 2013, she began to feel her passions validated.
So, with help from producer Michael Rinne, Spence selected 13 original songs out of about 30 to record at Farmland Studios with some of her favorite musicians, including Danny Mitchell (Kim Richey) on keys, Kris Donegan on electric guitar (Matthew Perryman Jones, Amy Speace), Daniel Parks (Kelsey Waldon, Lucy Hale) on acoustic guitar, mandolin and banjo, Michael Rinne on bass (Rodney Crowell, Steelism) on bass, Christian Sedelmeyer (Jerry Douglass, 10 String Symphony) on fiddle, Justin Schipper (Josh Turner) on pedal steel, Evan Hutchings (Escondido, Rayland Baxter) on drums and Andrew Combs, Erin Rae and Anderson East all providing additional vocals.
The album opening “Trains Cry” sets the album’s reflective, almost reverent tone with an insight Spence weaves throughout her songs – time inevitably marches forward, and we must take all the joy as well as the sadness that brings. Spence’s unabashedly honest approach also means acknowledging her tough side, with songs like “Don’t Call” and “Kissing Ain’t The Same As Talking,” two songs that refuse superficial relationships. She also acknowledges the need for bold female singer-songwriters in a landscape dominated by men. “Women are expected to write emotional music, but when a man writes emotional music, its profound and its praised. I just feel like that’s bullshit and I think that the only music that should be made is emotional music.”
Meanwhile the band lives and breathes with Spence’s guitar and vocals, masterfully navigating a breadth of genres with a perfect sense of intimacy and style, at times with the rock of Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers, the twang of Lower Broadway, or the sensitivity of swelling pedal steel and simple percussion.
Once the album was finished, Spence went on to win the Kerrville Folk Fest songwriting contest in May and in August was one of the headlining acts at the Rocky Mountain Folks Fest alongside The Stray Birds, Hooray for the Riff Raff, John Fulbright, Josh Ritter, and Brandi Carlisle. She also visited the acclaimed Daytrotter studios in September to record an exclusive acoustic set.
With all the courage, grit and passion that pervade her 13 new tracks, Spence is more than ready to share Somehow and take her place in the world of professional songwriters. Still, she does so without losing touch with her reality: “It just feels like all of this happened somehow, making these songs, this record, just somehow happened, kind of magically. And I know what I want and I just know that somehow I am going to make it happen.”